Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Nanny for Christmas by Sara Craven

A Nanny for ChristmasA Nanny for Christmas by Sara Craven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a cute Christmas book. It seemed a little lighter than usual for Sara Craven, until the evil ex shows up and it gets real. And that woman was wretched! I can't imagine how much Dominic regrets marrying her, except for his daughter. When it's just Phoebe, Dominic and Tara, this almost has a sweet feel, a family oriented holiday romance. It's nicely steamy in parts, but appropriate to the subject matter. Phoebe is perfectly likable, an orphan with a bit of a Cinderellaesque feel. Dominic is a hot dad who is on the intense side. And Tara seems troubled, missing the love of a mother. It works perfectly well for a reader looking for a holiday themed contemporary romance including children. Enough said.

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Don't Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy

Don't Ask Me NowDon't Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This is a bonafide love triangle book. Not all that common in Harlequin Presentslandia. Usually the hero is undeniably one man and there's no question that another could claim the heroine's affections. It was kind of a cool twist, actually. The real hero is one that you might not expect at first. Darcy seems to have read plenty of HPs where the heroine moves from the dangerously sexy, irresistible man who broke her heart to a safe, nice man. But something was missing. And her heart seemed to call her back to the 'bad boy' and away from 'safe.' She turns that on its head with this book.

Disclaimer: What I'm going to say in this review isn't quite a spoiler, but it might be!

I'm glad. I couldn't stand Cathy's ex. He was a jerk and user. He was so smug and arrogant and had no respect for boundaries. He was touching the heroine sexually in public, knowing it would cause her discomfort. That's not cool. I was so glad that she came to her senses and realized that sometimes a compulsive attraction to someone isn't always the same thing as true, sustainable love. She realizes it almost too late. I was glad that this point she realizes that Thomas isn't just the safe guy who helped her get back on her feet, but he's a man that is truly worthy of her love.

The descriptions of Cathy's relationship with Anthony are pretty detailed and it's kind of twisted for an older Harlequin Presents. I suppose it's par for the course with an Emma Darcy book. They seemed to be more daring for the time.

This was pretty good, but I don't much care for love triangles, to be honest. And the fact that there was a slight question who the heroine was going to end up with makes it not quite my taste. Others may appreciate it more than I did. I can't deny it's well written though.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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The Winter Bride by Lynne Graham

The Winter Bride (Harlequin Presents, #1989)The Winter Bride by Lynne Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is classic Lynne Graham. The heroine is sweet and downtrodden, desperately in love with the hero. The hero had some unexpected depth. He's a tycoon, but has angst from the loss of his wife. It seems like Leo used and dumped her, but he was actually in love with her as well, although he felt guilty that she was barely of age. When they meet again, Angie doesn't want to be bothered with this man who dumped her so callously. She doesn't think he would care that she had his child, especially when she was told he didn't care about her back in the day. Leo actually thinks she had his cousin's child instead, which is ridiculous, considering that she's blond and so is the cousin. But his jealousy clouds his mind. Their reunion is complicated by the fact that his grandfather and her father's employer wants to see her, and her troubled relationship with her estranged father.

This one has a lot of family drama and the angst level is good. As always, the heroine is likable, and the hero seems jerky at first, but turns out to be a good guy, so you root for their happy ending together.

No reason at all to give this less than four stars.

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Secret Avengers, Vol. 2: Iliad by Nick Spencer (Text), Butch Guice (Illustrations)

Secret Avengers, Vol. 2: IliadSecret Avengers, Vol. 2: Iliad by Nick Spencer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gosh, I find this series incomprehensible. I don't know if it's just me or if it's the script not being that well-written. I don't mind a few twists and turns in a storyline, but there are so many that this book doesn't make much sense to me. I don't think this is a good choice for people who are new to the Avengers comics diving in. I would probably try to track down some older Avengers titles instead of this. There is a lot of assumed knowledge that I feel I only have picked up because of random Marvel title reading I've been doing this year. Other aspects slip over my head and I have to rely on the Marvel Wikia to get more information.

I would give this barely three stars.

This is a preliminary review. I may revise it over time.

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Spider-Woman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev (Illustrator)

Spider-Woman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D.Spider-Woman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I don't know anything about Spider-Woman, and this was my first exposure. It doesn't delve much into her backstory, although there is a foreword. I think that if one wants to learn the most about Jessica Drew, it's better to start with an origin story. I admit the main reason I checked this out was because it has SWORD in the storyline and I became acquainted with this agency through reading/watching the motion comic for Astonishing X-Men, and there is a storyline that features SWORD and the tough as nails, naturally green-haired commander of SWORD, Abigail Brand. She is in this, but as a supporting character.

Overall, this was pretty good. It's practically non-stop action, which is of course, great! Drew can hold her own with the bad guys, even some Super-Skrulls, and that's saying something. She's a very good athlete, and has some enhancements. Although unlike Peter Parker, she can't cling to objects and doesn't use webshooters.

The artwork is very good. Apparently Alex Maleev does it all digitally. It looks hand-drawn and painted, and very lifelike. The use of shadow is spectacular. Although I do feel that some scenes were a bit too dark, and the detail suffered.

I'd give this about 3.5/5.0 stars, because it didn't blow me away. I think I would have benefited from having more backstory on this character before I read this. This is basically a one-shot, but I hope to see more of her in other Marvel titles.

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Suicide Risk, Vol.1 by Mike Carey (Goodreads Author), Elena Casagrande (Artist)

Suicide Risk Vol. 1Suicide Risk Vol. 1 by Mike Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't like this as much as I expected. I like the idea of normal people getting powers and becoming superheroes and villains, but the storyline just got weirder and less coherent as it went along. I love the concept of super-powered individuals, and it was interesting how Carey taps into the dark side of that. Similar to what Brandon Sanderson did with Steelheart and Mark Waid with Irredeemable, Vol. 1. It's a scary thought when people have super powers and they are mentally unstable or just plain evil. The damage they can do is incalculable. So I could understand the lead character's motivations on that score, but over time, the story just made less and less sense, and it took a right turn that I didn't like towards the end. The artwork was pretty good, but I didn't find much to enthrall me about the story overall. I'm not sure if I will continue reading this series.

This is a preliminary review. I may add more later.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Married by Christmas by Carole Mortimer

Married by ChristmasMarried by Christmas by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a cute book. Mortimer kept us guessing on the hero and the heroine until near the end. The reveal on the truth about Lilli's parents' marriage and the true nature of his new love, was surprising.

I was a bit surprised at the beginning and I'm glad that things turned out more innocent than it seemed. Patrick was a nice mix of alpha and beta. He would come on as tough, but he had a marshmallow heart. I liked that about him.

I kept thinking about Lizzy Bennet from Pride and Prejudice because the heroine's name is also Elizabeth Bennet. I don't know if that was on purpose or not.

Not my favorite book by Mortimer, but a pleasant read and nice for a Christmastime read, with its focus on family and how complicated and rich they can make one's life.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Fairest, Vol. 1: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham (Goodreads Author), Phil Jimenez (Illustrator)

Fairest, Vol. 1: Wide AwakeFairest, Vol. 1: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I fear for when I finish the Fables series. I love it that much. I am glad there are some spin-off series that I can enjoy, although I'm not too in love with Jack as a character, so I probably won't read that one until I'm desperate. However, when I looked on Bill Willingham's website, I saw that he has a reading order and I was cool to start the Fairest series even though I haven't finished Fables yet. So I read this one on Saturday.

Overall, I really liked it. I'm having trouble concentrating on books right now, so it took me a bit to get into this. However, I did enjoy it a lot. I like that he does something different and deeper with the Snow Queen. Something I was not expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. I also like the twist on the "True Love's Kiss" rule. I liked the match-making Bottle Imp, and the fact that Ali Baba was the hero. In this book we actually have two heroines, so that was cool as well.

The artwork was gorgeous as usual. I loved the detail that the artist put into drawing and painting the characters. I studied the artists' lines and use of color to draw and paint the characters, and it inspires me to develop my own artwork to a deeper level.

The story at the end about the Lamia was dark. I was really shocked at how it ties into well-known Fables' characters ongoing storyline. It's something that will make me think harder about these secondary characters.

I honestly cannot get enough of these graphic novels. Looking forward to reading more in this series, in addition to the main Fables series.

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The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer

The SupernaturalistThe Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 3.25 of 5 stars

The Supernaturalist is intriguing dystopian science fiction that would appeal to a younger reader or even older readers who aren't looking for a story that's highly sophisticated. Overall, I liked it, although I was dissatisfied with some elements.

British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (one of my actor crushes) narrates this book very capably, using diverse accents for the characters. I am glad I chose to listen to this even though I have a paper copy. I liked hearing it, which stimulated my imagination in a way that I don't think reading would have done. I have an issue with science fiction in that I can't visualize technical things very well. In the auditory form, I found it a little easier to conceptualize the content.

The story is interesting. Cosmo Hill, young orphan who grew up in a group home that was nothing if not rampant neglect, victimization and abuse, has a near death experience, and he starts to see creatures that seem to sap the life force from people. He also comes into contact with a group who works to kill these creatures, which they have called 'parasites.' Throw in a deeper conspiracy and other elements from your standard dystopian world and you have a pretty good science fiction novel.

However, I found the end unsatisfying. I think that the twist that Colfer gives us in the story called for a richer ending than the one we got. I also think more thought could have gone into the world-building and the story plotting as far as the science fiction elements. It felt a bit superficial. On the other hand, I will say that Colfer is excellent at writing tense action scenes and his fast-paced writing style keeps a reader's interest.

The characters could have been better developed. I liked the secondary characters of Mona, Stefan and Ditto, but I wanted more from them. I feel as though their characterization barely scratched the surface. I realize that I'm being a bit hard on this book. Probably because I am huge fan of this author's Artemis Fowl books and I've read dystopian teen young adult books this year that went deeper in a way that was more satisfying.

Overall rating: 3.25/5.0 stars.

I think this could make a pretty good movie. I'd definitely watch it!

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Author/Illustrator), Richard Howard (Translator)

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to this as an audiobook with Richard Gere and Haley Joel Osment, and it was a very good listen. This book is like a dream. You can't expect it to make sense literally. It seems as though it is primarily metaphor and symbolism. I can imagine that a person stuck in the desert might imagine something like this, as his brain is fevered by the heat and lack of water. I haven't been near death, but I imagine that one does go to a different place when one is directly confronted with their mortality.

It's very sad, and I think that it makes me deal with my feelings about death. Right now, I'm having to do that a lot with the recent losses I've suffered. The angst hit me head on, but I can also see the beauty in this short and dreamy story.

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Pulse by Jeremy Robinson

Pulse (Chess Team Adventure, #1)Pulse by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book I've read by Robinson, and I can say I like his style. In Secondworld, he had neo-Nazis who have a sinister plan to destroy the world except for 'their kind'. In Pulse, he deals with an amoral billionaire whose plan is to live forever, and make money on the medical technology by selling it to the highest bidder. Throw in some Greek mythology and it's golden. Pulse is a good combination of high octane action and monster thriller.

I had no idea what to expect, and I honestly liked the tension as the story unfolded. It was a pleasant surprise at how things culminate, although this book has a seriously high body count and plenty of violent deaths.

I rooted for liked the Chess team, including its leader, 'King', Jack Sigler. Each member has something different to add to the team. I did wish there was more character development, but with the rapid pace of this novel, that would be pretty challenging. What I did get of the characters I did like. I especially liked Bishop, a team member with a tragic past and a serious anger problem, but deep at the heart, a true hero.

The villains were a bit underdeveloped for my tastes. I would have liked more viewpoint of Ridley and Reinhart. Ridley just came off as a very evil, self-absorbed guy with too much money. I think it would have been nice to see a flashback that revealed why he was so afraid of dying and was going to such extremes not to die. Reinhart just seemed like the bully type who started off abusing nerds on the playgrounds and who graduates to more heinous acts of bullying and villany. It would be interesting to see a flashback of the event that got him booted from the SEALs as well.

Overall, this was very good. The greek mythology foundation was fun and I loved where the author took it (minus the gory descriptions of the creatures rampages--could have done without that). I couldn't give it more than four stars just because I wish the author gave me more depth in the characters. But I tell you, this was a book that I didn't want to put down. It took me a while to read it because I'm really busy this month, not because of boredom. I'm looking forward to getting the Chess Team member ebook novellas and the other full length books in this series.

I'd recommend this book to fans of Matthew Reilly and James Rollins books.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Year One: Batman/Ra's al Ghul by Devin Grayson, Paul Gulacy (Illustrator), Jimmy Palmiotti (Illustrator), Laurie Kronenberg (Illustrator)

Year One: Batman/Ra's al GhulYear One: Batman/Ra's al Ghul by Devin Grayson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think the connection to Ra's al Ghul was a bit tenuous. Oh, yeah, he was the mastermind of the troubles that Batman and Gotham faces in this book, but it wasn't about Ra's al Ghul. Bottom line: Don't read this as an origin story about Ra's al Ghul. You'll be disappointed. I admit I kinda was. Overall, this was interesting. More or less Batman versus the zombies. If you go into it to read about Batman kicking butt, you'll probably be okay.

Nothing too exciting, but not bad.

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Batman and Son by Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert (Illustrator), John Van Fleet (Illustrator), Jesse Delperdang (Illustrator)

I'm just lately diving deeply into the Batman comics, although I read them a long time ago, and I am a big fan of him as an iconic figure. To my surprise, I found out late last year that he had an actual son. Luckily, my library has a few of these books about Batman and his son, and this is one of them. When Damian shows up, he's a fait accompli, and Batman has to deal with the pathology the boy has due to be raised to be an emotionless killer who believes he's destined to rule the world by Talia in the League of Assassins, and as the grandson of R'as al Ghul. The boy is already a killer and his moral compass is seriously skewed. Batman takes the boy under his wing, knowing that he's a loose cannon. Damian has a twisted daddy complex, and feels the need to prove himself to his father. He sees the current Robin, Tim Drake as competition, and deals with him brutally, as he also treats a somewhat harmless masked villain. It all adds up to one serious complication for Batman. But he knows he has a duty to his son. Overall, I did like this, but I didn't like the prose story stuck in the middle of the graphic novel. To be honest, I stopped reading it. The gleeful brutality of the Joker grotesquely described by Grant Morrison's prose writing was stomach-churning. I had a sensitivity when it comes to that kind of subject matter, so I knew it was time to throw in the towel as the Joker begins his murderous rampage through Arkham. I really like the character of Harley Quinn (as she is portrayed in the Suicide Squad). While I know she's no innocent, it seems as though Joker brings out the very worse in her. Their relationship is the very definition of a toxic romantic relationship. I'm glad she later kicks him to the curve. So the prose story brought down my rating a lot. Also, I felt the ending was too abrupt and a bit confusing. I think that one should try to figure out the chronology of the Damian Wayne story and have the next books handy after they read this.